Nany, Nany Noo Noo: Peggy Noonan Jumps the Shark Over Donald Rumsfeld Memoir

-By Warner Todd Huston

In her March 11 column, Peggy Noonan (a former special assistant to Ronald Reagan) savaged Donald Rumsfeld as “The Defense Secretary Who Let Bin Laden Get Away .” Noonan also ripped his new book, “Known and Unknown,” as a tome whose “stupid little spine” she wanted to break in anger. I’d like to suggest that while she was “flinging” books, she did so while jumping the shark.*

Noonan (did you know she once worked for Ronald Reagan?) simply hated Rummy’s book. In fact, it seems that she was particularly incensed that the book made her buddy and TV show comrade, Bob Woodward, out to be a liar. Victoria Coates reports the crux of the matter in her latest posting and handily eviscerates Noonan’s (who once worked for Ronald Reagan) shallow article.

In any case, Noonan (I hear she once worked for Reagan) spends several paragraphs ripping “Known and Unknown’s” use of memos to back up the points Rumsfeld makes in his book. “Most memos prove nothing,” she insists.

She insists this because she believes that memos must all be filled with lies. Noonan (who it is claimed once worked for Ronald Reagan) even relates a story of one guy she heard about that goosed up his memos so that historians would find him to be brilliant in retrospect. One wonders if Noonan (a former Ronald Reagan underling) read this story in a memo because it is one of those “stories I once heard” tales. I would ask the veracity of Noonan’s (who worked for Reagan years ago) tale, but, well, I’m sure she heard it somewhere, perhaps in some dingy Washington bar.

Noonan (who, once again, is rumored to have worked in Ronald Reagan’s White House) then spends the last half of her screed ripping Rummy’s “boring” book and raging that Rumsfeld was “the” man that didn’t “get” Osama bin Laden.

On this topic, Rummy has admitted that this was a singular failure. He also reports that he tried several times to resign his position but George W. Bush refused to take his resignation. Seems to me he does admit to Noonan’s (didn’t she work for Ronald Reagan?) main point.

Regardless of what Rummy admits to or does not admit to, however, I’d like to remind Peggy Noonan (wait, did I mention she once worked for Ronald Reagan sometimes during the last century?) that Donald Rumsfeld is not the man that didn’t “get” Osama bin Laden. George W. Bush is that man.

Noonan (who obviously didn’t work for Harry Truman) must not be aware of the adage that it is the White House where the buck stops.

Lastly, a word about Noonan’s (come on, did she really work for Ronaldus Maximus?) vitriol and hyperbole. She calls Rummy’s book a “little” book. That is hardly fair. It’s almost a nine hundred pages, fer cripes sakes. She calls the book “stupid,” and says Rummy lacks “brains” and “guts.” Pretty strong language, that.

After reading her petulant piece, one gets the uneasy feeling that one has just sunk down into Wonkette territory or has somehow accidentally found some other profane blog. This piece just doesn’t feel like the sort of thing one finds in a publication normally as decorous as The Wall Street Journal.

Whatever you feel about Donald Rumsfeld and his successes or failures, one has to look at Noonan’s (hey, she once worked… well, you know) piece and wonder just what happened to her. She seems to have really lost her mind on this one. If not her mind, certainly her civility.

Noonan may have worked for Ronald Reagan (has anyone heard that story?), but his sunny optimism doesn’t seem to have rubbed off on her.

**UPDATE** (3/17/11)

If you want to see a serious take down of Rumsfeld’s tenure as Sec. of Defense and a smoldering slam on his book that is literate (unlike Noonan’s blather) check out Max Boot’s review. Now THAT is how a negative review should be written.

*Jumping the shark is a term that means that something or someone has gone from worthy to absurd or has finally outworn a welcome all in one action. It is taken from the episode of the 80s TV series “Happy Days” where The Fonz jumped a shark whilst water skiing. This was the moment that many TV reviewers say that the series finally went from a hit show to a washed up has-been.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,, and, as well as,,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

For a full bio, please CLICK HERE.

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